How Carolina's Division Influences Their Draft Philosophy

A wise man once said that the first thing you have to do as a NFL team is win your division.  It's really the only way to control whether you get into the playoffs or not.  Shooting for a wildcard spot leaves team disappointed more often than not. (See the Arizona Cardinals who won 10 games last year and sat home during the playoffs.)  If the Panthers don’t win the NFC South in 2014, Carolina will be competing with the likes of San Francisco or Seattle, along with those Cardinals, and others like the Packers or Bears for those final spots.  Two spots is not a lot.  Now maybe that will change to three spots, but still there will be a lot of quality teams vying for a few spots.

So why is the Draft Guy, Mel Mayock, writing about this?  An organization's "draft philosophy" has to be, at least in part, shaped by their divisional opponents strengths and weaknesses.  So when you look at who we have to beat out to ensure our success, we are talking about the Dirty Birds in Atlanta, The Bounty Hunters in New Orleans, and the increasingly talented Tampa Bay Bucs.  What do these three teams have in common and how do you neutralize or attack that common strength?  Think about Julio Jones, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Marques Colsten, Brandin Cooks and Jimmy Graham.  With the exception of Cooks, these are some extremely tall WRs that Carolina will face in roughly 40% of their games.  Throw in folks like Megatron coming in for week 2 this year and you can see why the Panthers heavily addressed the defensive backfield this off-season.  I’m convinced that the Panthers had hoped that Jason Verrett was going to be there at 28, but true to form where not going to reach.  And we just missed out on Pierre Desir by one pick in the Fourth Round to the Browns.  Unable to grab an elite corner in the draft or sign one in the off-season due to salary cap challenges, Carolina did the next best thing.  Dave Gettleman drafted smart athletic guys and brought in some wily vets to mentor the youngsters.  Both Bene Benwikere and Tre Boston scored an incredibly high 21 on their Wonderlic tests and show a very high Football IQ on the field.  Mike Mitchell, though he had a high motor, was known for bone-headed mistakes, particularly drawing momentum changing penalties.  Josh Norman is probably our most talented DB on the squad prior to bringing in the new faces, but he showed he will crack and make poor decisions under pressure (ie the Buffalo game last year).  

So bringing in experienced backs like Antoine Cason, Roman Harper, Thomas DeCoud, then drafting Bene and Boston shows an attention to attacking our NFC South Foe’s strengths.  When we look at the 2015 Draft we will take into account the strengths of our Division at that time.  Follow me, Erin Ford, aka Mel Mayock on Twitter at @PanthersDrafter.  And always #KeepPounding.